How to Wallpaper a Room (Step-by-Step Guide)

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From this guide, you’ll learn how to wallpaper a room. We’ll look at the whole process from start to finish and provide you with some top tips to make everything go as smoothly as possible.

As with most things DIY, good preparation is key to doing a great job. So be prepared to spend a considerable amount of time prepping the walls to get an amazing finish. This includes removing all the old wallpaper (if needed) and filling in cracks and holes in the plaster.

How to calculate how much wallpaper you need to decorate a room

Wallpaper rolls typically measure 33′ (10m) long and 21″ (535mm) wide. If the room you’re decorating has a ceiling height of 9′ (2760mm) you’ll get three drops of wallpaper per roll.

Allow a few inches per cut length for trimming the top and bottom off each strip. Allow more if the wallpaper has a large pattern repeat.

To calculate how many wallpaper rolls you need, measure the walls of the room. In a rectangular room, you only need to measure two walls because opposite walls are the same length. You could measure the room on your own, but it’s easier, quicker and more reliable if somebody helps you.

Make a note of all the measurements, rounding up to the nearest inch. Now divide the total by 21″ or 535mm.

This figure tells you how many drops of wallpaper you need.

If you get three lengths from each roll divide the number of drops by three to calculate how many rolls you need.

The final calculation

  1. The walls measure 756″ (18900mm) in total and the ceiling height is 9ft (2760mm) allowing three drops from each roll
  2. 756″ (18900mm) ÷ 21″ (535mm) = 36 drops of wallpaper
  3. 36 drops of wallpaper ÷ 3 drops per roll = 12 rolls

Based on this calculation I would purchase 13 rolls of wallpaper which includes one spare roll for any mishaps etc.

It’s always better to have too much wallpaper

Always buy an extra roll of wallpaper in case of mistakes or you need to make repairs in the future. I don’t deduct too much paper for doors and windows from the total as it’s always better to have more than you need. Most DIY stores will credit you for any rolls you return. And there’s nothing worse than the store not having any stock of your chosen wallpaper should you run short.

Planning where to start the wallpapering depends on the room itself. If you have a main feature in the room such as a fireplace then this is your starting point. (this applies more to patterned paper, but it is something I have always done regardless of the paper being used).

The first strip of wallpaper you hang should be central to the fireplace and needs to be perfectly vertical (this is where the plumb line is invaluable) as this strip determines how straight the other strips will be.

Make sure you buy wallpaper rolls with the same batch number

When you buy your chosen wallpaper, be sure to check the batch numbers and/or colour number codes on each roll are the same. The reason for doing this is to ensure all rolls have the same pattern and colouring. Two rolls with different batch numbers may vary slightly because they were made at a different time, hence the term ‘batch’.

This doesn’t apply to lining paper, by the way.

Online wallpaper calculators

I appreciate this is a rather old school way of working out how much wallpaper you need to decorate a room, but it still works.

If you prefer to use an online wallpaper calculator that does all the working out for you, here are some worth checking out.

How to remove wallpaper

Are you looking for quick and easy way to remove wallpaper before decorating? Sorry to burst your bubble but there isn’t one! Every method I know is messy and takes forever. With that said, there is one method that outshines the rest – using an electric steamer. 

These things make removing wallpaper so much easier than the other popular method of using hot water and vinegar. I’ll explain both methods in more detail later. First though, let’s look at the tools and equipment you’ll need and how to prepare your room.

What tools do you need to remove wallpaper?

  • Wallpaper steamer (optional, but recommended)
  • Wallpaper scraper or putty knife – start with a wide one but have a narrow one handy too
  • Step ladder
  • Water, rags and a bowl
  • Dust sheets for covering the floor and/or furniture
  • Gloves (optional)
  • Large bin liners

How to prepare a room before stripping wallpaper from an interior wall

  • Clear the room as best you can or cover your furniture with dust sheets, old bed sheets or whatever works for you. 
  • Take down pictures, photos and anything else hanging on the walls. Put them all in a safe place, preferably in another room (especially the telly, games consoles and other gadgets).
  • Check the walls for nails, screws and anything else standing proud of the surface – remove them if you can.

How to remove wallpaper

Have a look around the room at the current state of the wallpaper. Are there any loose pieces you can easily remove without wetting the wallpaper? If so, go ahead and do that. Remove as much as you can using this method.

If there aren’t any obvious places to start, try the bottom corner of any piece you like. Get your scraper under the corner and try to remove some paper from the wall to give you a bit of leeway. 

Corners are often a good place to start because they tend to hold the least amount of paste. 

Once you’ve freed one corner, try the other one on the same strip. When they’re both free, grab each one and try to pull the entire strip off the wall. Sometimes this works. Sometimes it doesn’t. It’s definitely worth trying as you could save yourself a ton of time and effort.

What often happens when you do this you pull off the top layer of the wallpaper while the backing remains attached to the wall. This isn’t perfect, but it does make it easier to remove later on.

Put all the paper into the large bin liners as you go. 

Once you’ve removed as much wallpaper as you can using this dry method, it’s time to start getting serious. Put the kettle on!

Yes, it’s time for a brew but you’re going to need hot water for the next stage. 

How to use a steamer to remove wallpaper

This is definitely my preferred method for stripping wallpaper. It’s fast, efficient and you can get the job done in just a few hours.

A wallpaper steamer looks a bit like a vacuum cleaner and works like a kettle.

The steamer has a plastic chamber which houses a heating element. A plastic hose leads from the chamber to a flat handle a little larger than your hand. Once you’ve added hot or cold water to the chamber (hot or boiling water is best if the steamer takes a while to heat up) and switched it on, the steam travels down the plastic hose and out through the handle, which you hold against the wallpaper for a few seconds to allow the steam to do its work.

Once the steam has soaked in and started breaking down the old wallpaper paste, use your scraper to gently remove the paper from the wall.

In most cases, the wallpaper will come away from the wall with ease. Even if you’re working with woodchip.

The handle of the steamer is typically a little larger than your hand. You can move it around a fairly large area before you need to start scraping. Allow time for the steam to penetrate the wallpaper and adhesive and begin doing its work. So you could, if you wanted,  steam one area and scrape another at the same time.

The time needed for the steam to penetrate the paste will vary from. Experiment with your timings to see what works best for you. To be on the safe side, start low and increase the time you leave the steamer on the wall when your confident it can take it. Don’t hold it against the wall in one position for too long as it may crack the plaster. The same principle applies to drywalls, which may absorb too much moisture from the steamer.

How to remove wallpaper without a steamer

The other method for removing wallpaper follows the same principles but takes more elbow grease and time.

Depending on the size of your room, you might want to do one wall at a time.

The idea here is to combine equal parts boiling water and vinegar in a bowl, bucket or spray bottle, then apply the mix to the wall. The hot wallpaper loosens the wallpaper paste and the vinegar helps it dissolve. Once you’ve done that, leave it to soak for 5-10 minutes before removing the wallpaper with your scraper.

If you’re using the bucket or bowl method and hot/boiling water, use a sponge to apply the water. Wear rubber gloves to protect your hands.

Once you’ve removed all the main pieces of wallpaper, go back over the walls to remove the smaller bits. A lot of these will be tricky to see. Use your scraper to find and remove them.

If you wait for the wall and leftover pieces of paper to dry out, you might be able to use a stiff-ish brush to remove them.

The key to great decorating is thorough preparation so don’t skimp on the final checks. Be sure to go over every surface several times to make sure all the pieces of wallpaper are removed.

Once you’re happy everything is in order, start the next stage, which will either be fixing cracks and marks, rewallpapering or painting.

Pasting and hanging the first strip of wallpaper

It’s important to get this right – the rest of the job depends on it. Before you start, put the pasting table on top of a dustsheet on the floor and have all your wallpapering tools ready to use nearby.

Tools and equipment needed to wallpaper a room

  • Wallpaper
  • Wallpaper paste
  • One or two buckets
  • Large flat work surface or pasting table
  • Tape measure
  • Plumb line or spirit level
  • Step ladder
  • Pasting brush
  • Utility knife
  • Seam roller
  • Large scissors
  • Wallpaper brush

For more details, check out this more detailed list of home decorating equipment and tools.

Before you paste the first strip of wallpaper, use a plumb line or spirit level and pencil to mark a vertical guideline on the wall. It should be approximately 1/2″ (12mm) away from the edge of the first strip of wallpaper. As shown in the image below.

fig 1

I always have two buckets or trays; one for the wallpaper paste and the other half-filled with warm water and a clean cloth for wiping down the pasting table. Do this after pasting each strip of wallpaper, thus ensuring no paste is left behind to stick to the next one.

Read the wallpaper paste manufacturer’s instructions as it normally requires a short standing time when mixed. And different quantities of water are added to suit the wallpaper being used.

Cut the first strip of wallpaper to length remembering to add 6″ (150mm) for trimming. Place it face down on the pasting table.

Check the wallpaper has the correct orientation. Apply the paste from the centre of the paper in a herringbone fashion making sure all the paper is covered. Especially corners and edges.

The strip of wallpaper will more than likely be longer than the pasting table. When you’ve pasted as far along the table as you can, fold the pasted paper back on itself concertina style.

fig 2

Wipe away any paste on the table. Slide the strip of wallpaper along the table and paste the remaining area until the whole length is pasted.

Set this strip down to one side and allow the paste to soak in. Each roll of wallpaper usually has instructions with regard to soaking times. While it’s soaking, wipe down the table ready for the next strip of wallpaper.

(Wallpaper expands when pasted so the soaking time allows for this to occur before it is hung on the wall).

When the wallpaper has had adequate time to soak it is ready to hang

Starting at the top of the wall, unravel the first wallpaper strip and stick it to the wall. Checking all the time that the edge is inline with your plumb line.

The first 2 – 3ft (600 – 900mm) of wallpaper can be ‘tacked on’ to make it easier to line up. When the wallpaper edge is inline with the plumb line, use a wallpaper brush to create a firmer fixing.

Now unravel each section of the ‘concertina’ of wallpaper brushing it flat as you go until you reach the bottom. Go back over it brushing out any trapped air bubbles. Follow the same herringbone pattern from the centre, checking all the edges are stuck down.

Trimming the wallpaper

Now you are ready to trim the top and bottom of the strip of wallpaper.

Brush the wallpaper into the top edge as best you can then using the back edge of your wallpaper scissors. Run them along the edge (not pressing too hard as the wallpaper may tear).

Now pull down towards you the excess wallpaper. The scissors should have left an impression which will give you a guide line for trimming the wallpaper.

Once this is cut, brush the wallpaper back.

Repeat this to trim the bottom edge to the top of the skirting board.

Wipe away any paste that will probably be on the ceiling and skirting board using your cloth and warm water.

How to wallpaper around corners

Corners of walls are rarely perfectly square. When you reach a corner, cut the  strip of wallpaper the required width to reach the corner plus 1″ (25mm).

This will allow the wallpaper to just go around the corner by 1″ (25mm).

If this 1″ (25mm) section of wallpaper won’t stick flat on the wall, make little cuts so it overlaps itself.

fig 1

Using a tape measure, measure out from the corner the width of the soaked wallpaper plus 1/2″ (12mm).

Mark this measurement on the wall in pencil. Using your plumb line hanging in line with the pencil mark, mark a vertical guide line down the wall.

Hang the next strip of wallpaper from the corner covering any cuts you had to make in the previous strip. Make sure the other edge of the strip of wallpaper is inline with your plumb line. When you continue wallpapering, each strip will be hanging perfectly vertical.

fig 2

Using your wallpaper brush, remove any trapped air bubbles. Then trim the excess wallpaper from the top and bottom.

How to wallpaper around windows and inside reveals

Wallpapering around a window and the reveals can be a great way to test your patience. Sometimes it’s straightforward, whilst other times, depending on the condition of the walls and quality of the wallpaper, it’s not.

The method described below is the one I have used in the past. Generally, I’m happy with the results.

Take extra care when wallpapering around windows and reveals. The wallpaper easily tear because as the cuts take time to do, the wallpaper has more time to soak.

I always start as shown in the image below, with wallpaper strip No 1. This strip when cut as shown will cover a section of the wall above the window.

fig 1

A section of the top window reveal and 1/2″ (12mm) of the top of the side reveal.

This 1/2″ (12mm) section is to hide any discrepancies if the window reveal is not square when the next strip of wallpaper is hung in place (No 2).

Use your wallpaper brush to remove any air bubbles and push the wallpaper into the corners ready for trimming.

This next images shows you where to cut the second strip of wallpaper.

fig 2

This strip covers a section of wall above the window, the side reveal and a section below the window. Although there will be a small overlap above the window I have always found this to be virtually unnoticeable. Even less so when curtain rails etc are fitted.

Use your plumb line to ensure the strip hangs perfectly vertical before making cuts for the reveal and window sill.

I prefer to repeat this method on the opposite side of the window. Then hang wallpaper strips to cover the gaps in between the top and bottom of the window and the top reveal. Small overlaps of wallpaper are generally unnoticeable as they are hidden by curtain poles above, and radiators below the window. If the overlaps won’t stick properly, let the paper dry and use overlap or border adhesive to fix the issue.

Remember to wipe clean the window frame and sill of any wallpaper paste that may be present.

How to cut wallpaper around light switches and electrical sockets

When you have a power socket, light switch or TV aerial outlet etc, that needs to be wallpapered around, use a small set of scissors around 4″ – 5″ (100 -125mm) long to make the appropriate cuts in the paper.

Hang the strip of wallpaper as you would normally from the top. When you reach the power socket or light switch, make four cuts in the paper from approximately the centre to each of  its outer corners.

fig 1

Cut these four flaps of wallpaper down to leave an overlap of around 3/16″ (8mm).

fig 2

Turn off the main switch at the consumer unit and remove the appropriate circuit fuse or miniature circuit breaker (MCB). Check that the power socket etc is ‘dead’ (no voltage present).

Loosen the fixing screws holding the power socket in place. Using the wallpaper brush, guide the remainder of your flaps of wallpaper behind the power socket. Look for blobs of wallpaper paste that may have dripped onto the electrical connections on the back of the power socket. If there are any present remove them with a dry paint brush and/or a cloth.

Wait until the wallpaper paste has dried out, then replace the circuit fuse or MCB and switch the consumer unit back on. Check the power socket is working correctly.

How to wallpaper a ceiling

To wallpaper a ceiling, ideally you need some form of platform to stand on. It should be strong and sturdy so it can take your weight and it won’t topple over.

Two pairs of trestles or step ladders with a rigid walk board in between are ideal for the task.

Take great care you don’t lose your footing or lean out too far. Even a fall from a relatively low height could result in an avoidable trip to the local A & E department.

Start from what you consider to be the straightest edge on the ceiling.

Cut to length and paste the first strip of wallpaper. Fold it into the concertina shape allowing 6″ (150mm) for trimming.

Once the wallpaper has had time to soak, start sticking it to the ceiling. Brush it flat with your wallpaper brush. Continue straight across the ceiling until the whole length of wallpaper is stuck down flat. Then go back over the strip brushing out any trapped air bubbles.

Trim to length and brush into the edges.

Patterned wallpaper

If you are wallpapering the ceiling with a patterned paper, put a pencil mark on the wallpaper pattern on the strip already on the ceiling, say 12″ (300mm) from the ‘start end’ and then put a pencil mark on the next strip where the pattern matches up.

If you do this you will spend less time trying to match the pattern up whilst holding the soaked wallpaper up against the ceiling and therefore reduce fatigue on your arms.

This second strip of wallpaper should again be brushed flat and the edge should be butt up to the previous strip, making sure all the edge of the wallpaper is stuck down properly.

If the last strip of wallpaper on the ceiling is only narrow in width, then cut the whole length of the strip down to the required width plus 2″ (50mm), this will stop the weight of the soaked wallpaper from pulling it away from the ceiling before you have time to trim it to size.

Now it’s your turn

There you have it. The process for wallpapering a room in step-by-step format. Good luck.